Not a termination rate. An elimination rate.

disappearingIf you haven’t noticed, a while back I added a “News” page to the blog (you can find the link under the tab for “Articles” on the homepage). Here’s a news item where a 90% termination rate would actually be lower than what is happening.

In other posts, I have detailed how those writing about prenatal testing should update their figures and cease using the oft-quoted, but now out-dated, 90% termination rate following a prenatal diagnosis. That number is based on a study from 1999, which is based on figures from the 1980’s. While there is no study that establishes the termination rate for the United States on a national scale, the more recent studies from select states suggest that the rate instead is somewhere around 75%.

What gets lost in this discussion about rates and percentages, is that at that lower rate, there are actually more abortions than when the rate was at 90%. I explain this apparent contradiction here.

But, the 90% rate is a very real number in other countries. Moreover, due to prenatal testing being part of a public health care system, almost all expectant moms accept it. And, in that situation, having that high of a termination rate, results in a termination rate exceeding 80% for all pregnancies. Whereas, the historical 90% rate, and now the current 75% rate, applies only to those moms who go through prenatal testing, in France and Switzerland, greater than 80% of all pregnancies carrying a child with Down syndrome end in abortion. This means that if there are 100 pregnancies carrying a child with Down syndrome, at least 80 will end in abortion.

But, even that stark of a figure would be less than the most recent figures reported out of Taiwan.

In a report in the Taipai Times, new prenatal testing is reducing the ratio of live-born babies with Down syndrome as compared to all pregnancies with Down syndrome from 70% in 1994 to just 5.99% in 2010. This means out of 100 pregnancies positive for Down syndrome, 70 resulted in a live-birth in 1994, but only 6 were live-births in 2010. The article again is visited by Voldemort: it does not say how exactly prenatal testing is causing this elimination of live-births. Nonetheless, the Taiwan Society of Perinatology is “urging all pregnant women to undertake the recommended tests.”

So, to understand those numbers, we’re not talking a 90% termination rate following a prenatal diagnosis. We are talking that 96% of all pregnancies carrying a child with Down syndrome in Taiwan end in abortion.

This is not a termination rate. It is an elimination rate.


  1. Great article, Mark. This needs to be picked up internationally.

  2. Beyond inhumane.

    • Serah Merrick says:

      How is this inhumane? Who wants the burden of caring for a child with Down Syndrome? You people are nuts.

      • Serah–do you known anyone with Down syndrome? Not simply seeing someone occasionally, but actually taking the time to get to know someone with Down syndrome?

        • Does it really matter? The less retarded people we have, the better for both us and them. They won’t whine that no one wants them and be so needy, while we will live normally. I support this, to be honest. The less babies born with retardation we have, the better.

          • Edward–you’re jumping in here, so I’ll ask you the same question of whether you know anyone with Down syndrome? You’re making an assessment of what is “better.” To make that assessment, the best knowledge would be to have actual knowledge of what life with individuals with Down syndrome is like. So have you actually taken the time to get to know anyone with Down syndrome?

          • Really retarded??? You have no idea what this kids with Down syndrome can and will do. They have amazing hearts and compassion. Everyone should know someone with Down syndrome it would make the world a better place to live it. People with Down syndrome is a blessing. Too bad so many don’t take the time to know and to throw away a perfect gift.

          • tri21mom says:

            Well in my opinion, the less cold, hard-hearted people like Serah and Edward that there are among us, the better. But then you’ve heard what they say about opinions. These two people’s opinions are among the most fetid.

            As you can probably tell by my username, I am the mother of a child with Trisomy 21. Well, actually we have TWO: one biological, one adopted. Is our life challenging? You bet! Are there days when my husband and I ask ourselves if it’s worth it? Absolutely! But, unlike Serah and Edward, we have found that life isn’t ALL ABOUT US, and that people are more than their IQ’s, more than their appearance, and they are definitely MUCH more worthy of life than prejudicial people like Serah and Edward believe.

            Obviously neither Serah nor Edward have known anyone with Down syndrome. They were all fired-up to throw their boorish, drive-by, comment-bombs, but neither of them have had the courage to answer and admit it. Speaks volumes about their lack of character.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Ah, good old eugenics. I think Hitler was a proponent of this. Have Down syndrome? Aborted. Cerebral palsy? Aborted. Blind? Aborted. Cleft palate? Aborted.

        This makes me sick. Individuals with Down syndrome are people. People with hopes, fears, dreams, ambition. People who can love, people who have feelings.

        I grew up with an aunt who has Down syndrome. She is witty, ornery, and kicked my butt in checkers on a regular basis. She is always leaving me presents, and goes out of her way to help without being asked. She is not a burden, but a blessing. I am not a violent person, but I would defend her with my life. She has more of a right to life than most, especially those who would have had her “terminated.”

  3. I don’t understand. Who would want to be born with Down’s syndrome and all the limitations it entails, not to mention the burden on the family? Who would choose it for themselves, and worse, who would want to force a lifetime of retardation and limits on someone else??? It is beyond me why anyone would be against eradicating any condition that included mental retardation. Do you also encourage folks with Huntington’s to breed? Do you serve up chemically laced dishes at your conventions to encourage cancer? I just don’t get it.

    • You’re ignoring the fact that nothing has been developed to actually prevent Down syndrome from being conceived. Your examples are not analogous. There are carrier screening tests for Huntington’s so couples can choose not to reproduce to avoid the chance of passing on Huntington’s. Down syndrome is not caused by an outside poisoning as your last example states. I think the reason “you don’t get it” is because you’re not thinking about it correctly.


  1. […] are ending in abortion, as noted by Mark Leach, a Louisville, Kentucky attorney who blogs at Down Syndrome Prenatal Testing and dad to a daughter with […]

  2. […] testing: more selective abortions of pregnancies following a prenatal result for Down syndrome. Taiwan reported that it was experiencing a 94% termination rate of all Down syndrome pregnancies, […]

  3. […] And yet, the majority of babies who are diagnosed with a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis are […]

  4. […] concerned by the generational impact prenatal testing is having on the number of children born with Down […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: